Transgender people and allies bond over “Coffee and T”

By : Krista DiTucci
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St. Petersburg, Fla. – For transgender people in St. Pete seeking friendship and a sense of community, Metro Youth’s new “Coffee and T” social group is the answer.

Dani Merewether, Metro Youth LGBT program specialist, says he proposed the idea of a transgender social group after realizing one did not yet exist at the center.

“I really wanted to create a safe, comfortable environment for the transgender community to come together and just share snacks with friends and support each other,” Merewether says. “I want them to be themselves and not be afraid. Right here in Tampa, India Clarke was murdered. That hits close to home.”

Toli Gintoli, Metro Youth LGBT programs manager, says “Coffee and T” originally started as a social group and has evolved into helping raise awareness of transgender issues.

“We realized people needed a place to express angst and feelings about what’s been happening with society, especially transgender people who have been murdered recently,” Gintoli says.

Gintoli says “Coffee and T” often involves sharing information about current social events and exchanging ideas about future events. However, she says she has overheard more intimate group conversations such as how to identify to others publicly and privately.

“They discuss how to live the life they want to live and be open about who they are and how to have those conversations with others,” Gintoli says.

“We’re kind of a ragtag group of people talking about our struggles, politics, and everyday life,” Merewether says.

Merewether says sometimes the group will have a specific topic. For instance, last week they discussed Caitlyn Jenner’s new show.

“There were mixed opinions (of Caitlyn),” Merewether says. “Some had a problem with how she came out and transitioned before really identifying with the transgender community. She didn’t know any terminology. It’s hard to be an advocate when you don’t have the vocabulary.”

Additionally, Merewether says they often discuss acceptance and the difficulties of coming out completely, partially, or not at all. “We see everything from young transgender people already on hormones at 16 or 17 years old people in their 50s who are just starting to identify as transgender.”

“Coffee and T” meets the second and fourth Thursday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Metro Youth LGBT Welcome Center, 2227 Central Ave., St. Pete. The next meeting is August 27. For more information, email

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